By: Brittany Sickler
Economic Development Specialist
North Dakota District Office
Small business owners frequently admit to the fact that they need to do more with social media but they do not have any extra time in their busy schedules. The whole thing is seen as a demanding chore and the tendency is to become overwhelmed, especially for those who are, quite frankly, out of the loop. The ones who end up opening accounts haphazardly, without clear reasons as to exactly why, can easily see more harm done than good. Using the following tips makes it possible to use social media tools to positively impact your small business . . . even if your time is tight.
Planning is Everything
Why do you want to use social media? Do you have clear goals? How much time can you or your staff realistically dedicate? A common mistake is to start without answering any of those questions, spreading yourself too thin on all available sites when the best thing you can do is focus. Start with what you feel most comfortable with, adding an appropriate amount of content, and then continue on to use other tools as your time permits.
What types of social media do your customers use? Your competitors? Potential clients? Who are you really trying to reach? Knowing the answers to these questions is a tremendous help when deciding what tools to use. Just because it seems like everyone else is using LinkedIn does not mean that your business has to as well. If your target market won’t find you there, it’s not worth your time.
Monologue is out, Dialogue is in
Listening is key. Social media is not just about contributing, but also asking questions (to clients and others in your industry) and having a conversation. In the past, content for most marketing efforts was strictly monologue (print, radio, TV, etc.) — now it often consists of dialogue. By engaging your clients, you can learn more about their preferences and concerns faster than ever. But don’t forget to make sure you have controls in place to monitor and respond on all social channels.
One week you find yourself with a few extra minutes and post like crazy to take advantage. The next week you are swamped by looming deadlines and drop all online activity. This “too much” then “too little” approach can frustrate your followers. Be consistent, even if you can only predictably manage a few posts weekly. If necessary, you can schedule to do updates in your calendar, or rely on tools such as Hootsuite or Crowdbooster to do it for you.
Capitalize on Human Touch
Do not be afraid to give some personality to your online profile. Being real creates deeper relationships than traditional advertising and will appeal to the general public. Big business may strive for this, but they will not be able to compete with your down to earth, accessible image as a small business. The best part is, by letting your voice shine through you don’t have to spend hours crafting a perfect sounding pitch!
The old adage is if you are not measuring something, you cannot manage it. What results has your hard work produced? Social media is merely a means to an end; if you did not identify your desired outcomes in the beginning and measure their progress, how will you know when you have arrived? To make things easier for you, some analytics and metrics tools are built in like Facebook Insights. Others can be downloaded for free like Google Analytics, a powerful performance measurement tool.
And the winner is . . . ?
Using social media requires patience and determination. Like any strategy for business success it takes time, but you do not have to spend hours shooting arrows in the dark to hit the bull’s-eye. By employing time-saving tactics you can use social media to reach your goals, without stressing your schedule.
Brittany Sickler was recently hired as an Economic Development Specialist for the North Dakota District Office. Prior to joining the SBA, Brittany served as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader in Sustainable Community Tourism in Guatemala. She has degrees in Business Administration and Spanish from Indiana Wesleyan University and a Master of Science in International Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University. Brittany can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.